Distal femoral fracture

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Original Editor ­ - Leen Wyers

Top Contributors - Laura Ritchie, Evan Thomas, Daphne Jackson, Leen Wyers and Claire Knott

To edit: referencing format, ?research update

Definition/Description

Femur.png

Distal femur fractures can occur in several locations in the Distal femur shaft, or distal femur condylars.(1) Distal femoral fractures large occur secondary to high-energy trauma in younger population and osteoporotic fractures in the elderly population, including periprosthetic fractures above a total knee arthroplasty.(2)


There are different fractures; (1)
- Supracondylar fractures
- Unicondylar fractures
- T and Y – condylar fracture
- Periprosthetic fractures (2)

Clinically Relevant Anatomy

Knee joint.png

The knee is the largest weight bearing joint of the whole body. The bones of the knee are the distal part of the femur, the upper part of the tibia, and the patella. In the knee joint, there is not only bone, but also a slippery substance which is called the articular cartilage. The function of this cartilage is to protect and to cushion the bones when you move your knee, like when you jump, bend or straighten your knee.
Apart from the bones and the cartilage, there are certain muscles who support the joint and who allow the knee to move. There are two big and strong important muscles. The quadriceps are on the front side and the hamstrings on the back side of the knee. (6 (level of evidence 1B)) 

Epidemiology

We can distribute the fracture in two sorts of fractures, which are based on age and gender. Distal femur fracture occurs most often in older people whose bones are weak by osteoporosis. Elderly people with these fractures have typically poor bone quality. As we get older, all our bones become weak and fragile. (4 (level of evidence 3A),5 (level of evidence 5)) An example of one of the most common low energy mechanism is a fall at home (33%).
But also younger people (< 50 years) can have a distal femur fracture. This is the result of a high energy injury. The most common high energy injuries are caused by a traffic accident (53%). It can also be caused by a fall from a significant height. (4 (level of evidence 3A))
In both the elderly and the young people, the fracture may extend into the knee joint, which may result that the bone will shatter into many pieces.
Of all femur fractures, 6% exists of distal femur fractures. (4 (level of evidence 3A))


Symptoms

The most common symptoms of distal femur fracture include pain with weight bearing, swelling and bruising, tenderness to touch and deformity. By deformity, we mean that the lag may seem shorter and is crooked and that the knee may look out of place. (8)
Normally the symptoms that appear with this injury occurs around the knee, but sometimes, the symptoms are as well seen in the tight area.


Examination

Physical examination: the typical clinical picture during the inspection of the knee is swelling in the knee region and clear dislocation .X-ray examination is acquired. They take pictures in 2 different directions from the whole femur. (8)
Once the pictures are taken, we can examine the pictures, we can determine the kind of fracture using AO/TOA Classification. The AO classification for extra articular fractures is determent by de degree of displacement, single or multiple fracture or chatter bone, open or closed fracture. We use the 33-A AO. 1 To 3. (8)


Clinical Therapy

Nonsurgical treatment
- Skeletal traction 1: 5 (level of evidence 5)
- Skeletal traction 2: 7 (level of evidence 1B)
- Casting and bracing 1: 4 (level of evidence 3A),
- Casting and bracing 2:  5 (level of evidence 5)

Physical Therapy Management

Post operative

The aim of physiotherapeutic sessions is to gain back the full mobility of the knee and teaching the patient to walk again. At first the whole flexion and extension has to be back before we start walking. We also need to recover the power of the M. quadriceps and the M. hamstrings, this is very important because these are dynamic stabilizers of the knee. After the removal of the plaster we need to start as soon as possible with flexion and extension exercises. There is one condition before we start with the flexion exercises, pressure on the fracture is allowed.
Stepping can be started when there is an acceptable functional range, this means that the knee is stable enough for doing the activities of daily living. The next factors are an obstacle for the functional range. When there is a lack of extension in the knee, exercises of the M. quadriceps are recommended. There can also be a lack of flexion. When there is less than 100° of flexion, the patient has difficulties with steps, deep tread and narrow stairs. The patient needs at least 80-90° of flexion to permit sitting. It’s therefore important that the physiotherapist mobilizes the knee.


In supracondylar fractures the necessary degree of flexion can be obtained using pearson knee flexion peace. Or using a Tomas splint traction at the level of the fracture. Thomas Splint Traction may be used for the first 1 – 2 weeks. Mobilization of the knee should be started as early as possible to avoid tethering adhesions between M. quadriceps and fracture of the knee that cause stiffness in the knee. Unicondylar fractures are for surgical reasons better to rest in a non weight plaster for a period of 6 weeks before starting vigorous mobilization. The importance of performing frequent mobilization should be stressed to the patient. Passive mobilization of the patella in appropriate cases may be helpful. In routine cases of Distal femoral fractures a full range of flexion is achieved in the majority of all cases in the 12 months with the most gain in the first 3 months. (1)


According to current knowledge and evidence based recommendation, ultrasound is used to facilitate bone fracture healing. (3)(4 (level of evidence 3A))(9(level of evidence 1A)).But ultrasound hasn’t  long-terms effects.(10(level of evidence 1A))

Key Research

Resources

(1) Ronald Mcrae/ Max Esser, Practical fracture treatment, Fourth edition, 2002,  p.321-328
(2) Ebenbichler G. – Evidence-based medicine and therapeutic ultrasound of the musculoskeletal system – Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie – September 2009 – p.543-548
(3) Warden SJ et al. - Facilitation of fracture repair using low-intensity pulsed ultrasound – Veterinary and comparative orthopaedics and traumatology – December 2000 – p. 158-164
(4) Healio Orthopaedics - Treatment of Acute Distal Femur Fractures
(http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/journals/ortho/%7Bea445a00-7883-48d2-8e86-7eb7aa140d0c%7D/treatment-of-acute-distal-femur-fractures) (level of evidence 3A)
(5) OrthoInfo - Distal Femur (Thighbone) Fractures of the Knee
(http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00526#top) (level of evidence 5)
(6) Higgins TF - Distal femoral fractures - The Journal of Knee Surgery - 2007, 20(1):56-66
(6) http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/17288091) (level of evidence 1B)
(7) E. M. Winant – The use of skeletal traction – New York – 1949 (level of evidence 2A)
(8) Dr. P.R.G. Brink et al. - Letsels van het steun- en bewegingsapparaat, 2000, p.225-231
(9) Markus D. Schofer et al. - Improved healing response in delayed unions of the tibia with low-intensity pulsed ultrasound: results of a randomized sham-controlled trial BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 11:229 – 2010 (level of evidence 1A)
(10) Handolin L. Et al. – No long-term effects of ultrasound therapy on bioabsorbable screw-fixed lateral malleolar fracture - Scandinavian Journal of Surgery 94: 239–242 – 2005 (level of evidence 1A)

Search Strategy

Databases Searched: Google-books, Google-scholar, Pubmed, VUB-catalogus, web of knowledge
Keyword Searches: Distal femur fractures, femur fractures, femur , physiotherapy for femur fractures, facilitating bone fracture healing, skeletal traction femur
Search Timeline: 24/10/2012 – 29/11/2012

References

1) Ronald Mcrae/ Max Esser, Practical fracture treatment, Fourth edition, 2002, p.321-328
2) Dr. P.R.G. Brink et al. - Letsels van het steun- en bewegingsapparaat, 2000, p.225-231
3) Ebenbichler G. – Evidence-based medicine and therapeutic ultrasound of the musculoskeletal system – Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie – September 2009 – p.543-548
4) Warden SJ et al. - Facilitation of fracture repair using low-intensity pulsed ultrasound – Veterinary and comparative orthopaedics and traumatology – December 2000 – p. 158-164
5) Healio Orthopaedics - Treatment of Acute Distal Femur Fractures (http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/journals/ortho/%7Bea445a00-7883-48d2-8e86-7eb7aa140d0c%7D/treatment-of-acute-distal-femur-fractures) (level of evidence 3A)
6) OrthoInfo - Distal Femur (Thighbone) Fractures of the Knee
(http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00526#top) (level of evidence 5)
7) Higgins TF - Distal femoral fractures - The Journal of Knee Surgery - 2007, 20(1):56-66    (http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/17288091) (level of evidence 1B)
8) E. M. Winant – The use of skeletal traction – New York – 1949 (level of evidence 2A)
9) Markus D. Schofer et al. - Improved healing response in delayed unions of the tibia with low-intensity pulsed ultrasound: results of a randomized sham-controlled trial BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 11:229 – 2010 (level of evidence 1A)
10) Handolin L. Et al. – No long-term effects of ultrasound therapy on bioabsorbable screw-fixed lateral malleolar fracture - Scandinavian Journal of Surgery 94: 239–242 – 2005 ( level of evidence 1A)